US security, economy my top priority: Obama

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Chicago, Nov 17: Barack Obama, the US President-elect said on Sunday, Nov 16 that the security of the United States and getting the country's economy back on track would command his attention on a priority basis once he assumes office on January 20, 2009.

Obama told to CBS channel in his first television interview, since his historic election victory that he has spent the days since the Nov 4 election doing 'whatever it takes' to stabilize the economy, restore consumer confidence and create jobs to getting sound health care and energy policies through Congress. He also said he will work with his security team and the military to draw down US troops in Iraq, shore up Afghanistan and "stamp out al Qaeda once and for all."

Obama said that selecting his national security team is a top priority.

"I think it's important to get a national security team in place because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack," Obama told CBS'' '60 Minutes' in an interview broadcast.

"We want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible."

As far as the current Wall Street meltdown was concerned, Obama claimed that the American economy would have deteriorated even more without the 700 billion dollar bailout package, adding that there was a need to "restore a sense of balance."

"There's no doubt that we have not been able yet to reset the confidence in the financial markets and in the consumer markets and among businesses that allow the economy to move forward in a strong way. And my job as president is going to be to make sure that we restore that confidence," Fox News quoted him, as saying during the interview.

Obama has an ambitious list of campaign promises that will require cooperation and approval from Capitol Hill, and in that context, his team of advisers is packed with people with lots of legislative experience, which he himself lacks.

Obama resigned his Illinois Senate seat Sunday, Nov 16 after occupying it for just under four years, half of which he spent out on the presidential campaign trail.

During the campaign, Obama had Pete Rouse as his Senate chief of staff to take care of his business on Capitol Hill. On Sunday, Obama named Rouse to be a senior adviser in his White House. Rouse has 24 years of experience as a top Senate aide.

His chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, combines the Chicago roots and the legislative connections. Obama has picked Mona Sutphen and Jim Messina as his deputy chiefs of staff. Messina has served as chief of staff for three different lawmakers and has a vast network of relationships to show for it.

Philip Schiliro, who has more than 25 years experience working for Congress, is Obama''s liaison to Capitol Hill.

In the CBS interview, Obama also said Americans shouldn''t worry about the federal deficit for the next couple of years.

"The most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession," he said.

He also pitched for help for the auto industry.

Obama also confirmed that he intends to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

Obama said that capturing or killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden would be a critical aspect of stamping out the terror network once and for all.

"He (bin Laden) is not just a symbol, he's also the operational leader of an organization that is planning attacks against US targets," Obama said.


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